Events
Event Date Location

OMMA Display In LA

07/22/2014 - 07/24/2014 Los Angeles CA

Small Agency Conference & Awards

07/23/2014 - 07/24/2014 Austin TX

Strategic Advertising Sales Training 

07/23/2014 - 07/24/2014 Los Angeles CA

OMMA RTB Real-Time Buying

07/24/2014 Los Angeles CA

CIO Perspectives Boston 

08/06/2014 Boston MA

IT Roadmap Conference & Expo

08/06/2014 New York NY

OMMA mCommerce

08/07/2014 New York New York

CIO 100 Symposium & Awards

08/17/2014 - 08/19/2014 Rancho Palos Verdes CA

Mobile Insider Summit

08/17/2014 - 08/20/2014 LAKE TAHOE CA

Social Media Insider Summit

08/20/2014 - 08/23/2014 LAKE TAHOE CA

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Sponsored content is the holy grail of digital publishing. But does it work?

Fortune

People feel deceived when they realize an article or video is sponsored by a brand, and believe it hurts the digital publisher’s credibility, according to a study.

In recent years, a debate has raged on among publishing and advertising industry insiders over “sponsored content”—more recently called “native advertising” and once known as “advertorial”—the sort of advertising that looks very much like editorial content but is, in fact, directly paid for by an advertiser.

The approach has been embraced by newer digital ventures such as BuzzFeed and new digital efforts for very old publications like Forbes and The Atlantic. Industry peers watched and discussed: Is it deceptive? Is it ethical? Does it even work?

Whatever the answers, there’s no denying that the approach is suddenly in vogue. Storied news organizations such as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times  NYT  have since taken the native plunge. (Fortune has also decided to engage in the practice.) Last year, advertisers spent $2.4 billion on native ads, a 77% jump over 2012. That same year, the Post’s CRO called native ads “a spiritual journey.” (Really.)

Native ads may be popular with publishers, but consumers are not in love, according to a new survey conducted by Contently, a startup that connects brands with writers who then create sponsored content. (Yes, the survey runs counter to Contently’s mission; more on that in a moment.)

Two-thirds of the survey’s respondents said they felt deceived when they realized an article or video was sponsored by a brand. Just over half said they didn’t trust branded content, regardless of what it was about. Fifty-nine percent said they believe that a news site that runs sponsored content loses credibility—although they also said they view branded content as slightly more trustworthy than Fox News.

Publishers and advertisers tend to respond to concerns of confusion or credibility with the same response: “It’s clearly labeled!” Simple disclosure solves all conflicts, they suggest. Readers are smart enough to figure it out, and critics don’t give them enough credit.

To wit: “They get the drill,” said Lewis Dvorkin, the True/Slant founder who led the massive expansion of the Forbes contributor network and its sponsored BrandVoice program, at an event last year. Likewise, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has said the native ads on the newspaper’s website are clearly labeled to ensure there are no doubts about “what is Times journalism and what is advertising.”

But Contently’s findings, based on a survey of 542 people, throw cold water on the notion that readers “get the drill.” According to the study, readers are confused about what “sponsored” even means: When they see the label “Sponsored Content,” half of them think it means that a sponsor paid for and influenced the article. One-fifth of them think the content is produced by an editorial team but “a sponsor’s money allowed it to happen.” Eighteen percent think the sponsor merely paid for its name to be next to the article. Thirteen percent think it means the sponsor actually wrote the article. Even the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is perplexed; a panel on native advertising last year “raised more questions than it answered.”

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With Revenue Roaring, Twitter’s Advertising Team Is Untouched by Turmoil

The New York Times

Twitter‘s top executive ranks have been transformed in the last year, from its general counsel to, most recently, its chief financial officer.

Many of the executives have left or been pushed out as Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, has brought in a new team to try to increase sluggish user growth at the social network.

But in one very important area of the company — Twitter’s ad business — the leadership has remained relatively untouched.

Adam Bain, Twitter’s global president of revenue and partnerships, has been Twitter’s lead money man since he took the job nearly four years ago. A former executive at Fox Sports Media Group, Mr. Bain came to Twitter to oversee the development of the company’s then nascent advertising products.

In the reorganization after the resignation of Twitter’s No. 2 executive, Ali Rowghani, last month, Mr. Bain also took over control of business development. His role atop the moneymaking machine suggests that he might very well be the second most important person at the company after Mr. Costolo.

Before Twitter began selling sponsored tweets and other ad products in 2010, the company had very little revenue, most deriving from licensing deals with companies like Google andMicrosoft.

Now Twitter frequently runs sponsored video clips, one of the top social media ad products connected to live televised events, and it is rapidly building out its mobile presence, including challenging Facebook’s dominance in mobile app installation ads. This year,Twitter has said, it expects to post $1.2 billion to $1.25 billion in revenue, nearly double the $665 million it took in last year, although the company expects to continue to report net losses.

Along with enlarging the business and courting big advertisers and TV networks, Mr. Bain has poached numerous advertising veterans from technology companies across Silicon Valley to add to his team at Twitter.

Google has been a favorite target. Richard Alfonsi left Google in 2012 to lead the efforts to target small- and medium-size businesses, while Shailesh Rao and Stephen McIntyre left Google earlier that year to head Twitter’s Asian and European advertising sales efforts.

Mr. Bain’s top colleague, Kevin Weil, has also risen to prominence. Beginning his career at Twitter as an engineer managing much of the company’s analytics, Mr. Weil quickly moved to the ad side and was promoted three times. He is now vice president for revenue products at the company and is also becoming deeply involved in some nonadvertisement products, such as the hosting and automatic previewing of video clips on the site.

Under Mr. Bain, Twitter has also acquired MoPub andTapCommerce, two start-ups that were in the business of serving advertisements to users of other mobile apps. Even if Twitter’s user growth continues to wane, the thinking goes, the company can still lift its bottom line by selling mobile ads that run in places other than its flagship service.

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Advertisers Target Wearable Gadgets as Next Frontier

Bloomberg

Even before wearable technology gains widespread popularity, advertising companies are devising ways to deliver marketing messages directly to people who don watches, glasses and headgear that double as computers.

Case in point: InMobi Pte, a maker of mobile-ad tools, has a team of developers creating virtual mock-ups of ads on smartwatches, head-mounted displays and other gadgets to get a feel for how they can serve as a platform for marketers. The engineers, surrounded by powerful computers with large monitors at the company’s offices in San Francisco and Bangalore, India, are trying to get a head start in the nascent market, which has captured the attention of Google Inc. (GOOG) andApple Inc. (AAPL)

“Any device with a screen allows for an interesting opportunity,” said Atul Satija, vice president and head of revenue and operations at inMobi.

Millennial Media Inc. (MM) and Kiip Inc. have joined the search for viable wearable-ad technology, underscoring the appeal of the devices as marketing platforms. Shipments of wearables are projected to reach almost 112 million units in 2018, up from less than 20 million this year, according to IDC. While that’s still a tiny fraction of the more than 1 billion smartphones that will be sold in 2014, it’s enough momentum to induce ad companies to move products into development and out of the lab.

A hit product would not only spur sales for Apple, Google, Samsung Electronics Co. and other companies that drove the smartphone revolution, it will also open up new ways to make money from apps, reach consumers and gather data.

Building Blocks

Given the limited display size of the devices, the ads will be smaller than those on smartphones — and could briefly take over small screens to show promotions for coupons, shoes or health insurance.

“Obviously, advertisers are already experimenting,” Bryan Yeager, an analyst at EMarketer Inc., said. “If we continue to see that positive growth and upward trajectory, then I think that advertising will follow.”

Wearables also promise troves of unique data in areas related to health, activities and location, giving marketers new ways to put ads in front of consumers. For example, the wearable-ad experiments could involve sending a user an electronic coupon for cookies when they’re in the snack aisle of a grocery store. Or marketers might try to sell consumers a new pair of running shoes after collecting jogging data from a wearable gadget.

Devices such as computerized eyewear could even detect what a user is looking at when they’re shopping, said Julie Ask, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

“Knowing where I am is interesting,” Ask said. “Knowing what I’m looking at or studying for 3 to 4 minutes is more interesting.”

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Are you watching carefully? The importance of video completion rates

The Media Briefing

Video completion rates are an important metric in the attempt to gauge whether you’re making the right videos, and whether you’re going to be able to make money out of those videos.

Coull, a UK ad-tech startup looked at 12.4 million video plays across 60 countries during May to find the video categories that had the highest completion rates.

On a UK level, the cars and vehicles video category had the highest completion rate – 61.1 percent. The people and blogs category came second, with just over half the videos being watched to the end (52 percent), while travel and events came third, with 51.3 percent being watched all the way through.

However, for all those newspaper websites ploughing time into video content, there’s some worrying news. Only 43 percent of news and politics videos were watched through to the end – lower than the UK category average completion rate of 43.5 percent.

Screen Shot 2014 06 26 at 1.32.33 PM Are you watching carefully? The importance of video completion rates

On a global level, things are quite different, however. The news and politics category received the highest completion rates, with 62.2 percent – just pipping cars and vehicles to the top spot, which received 62.1 percent. The category average for completion rates on the global stage was also 43.5 percent.

The how-to & style, music, and gaming categories didn’t manage to hold viewers’ attentions particularly well, with completion rates at 35.8, 28.8, and 23 percent, respectively.

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The mobile majority: Engaging people on smartphones is the next big challenge to the news

Nieman Journalism Lab

It almost seems unfair — a case of double jeopardy.

Traditional news organizations have spent the past decade responding to an enormously disruptive piece of technology: the web browser. Their old monopolies, their old claims on the audience’s attention, were broken by a platform that let anyone publish — no printing press or broadcast tower required. The impact on their business models, particularly at newspapers…well, you know all about that.

But just when news organizations were starting to feel more at home on the web — just when, in many newsrooms, digital was no longer being treated as a sad sister to print — along comes another blow-up-the-model moment: mobile.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the rise of the smartphone is a shift on par with the rise of the web. But it wouldn’t be that much of one. Seven years after the iPhone, smartphones have moved from a tool of the tech elite to a handheld computer in everyone’s pocket. They’re radically changing how people are getting their news. And I fear that many news outlets still haven’t wrestled with how big a change they represent.

New data from eMarketer estimates that, in the United States, about 23 percent of Americans’ total media consumption in 2014 will come on mobile devices. That’s counting all media formats, including television, radio and print. Mobile’s already ahead of the total for laptops and desktops, 18 percent. And its share will keep growing as networks get faster and devices get cheaper.

It’s not uncommon for major news organizations to see 40 percent of their online audience on mobile devices, most of them smartphones. And at peak mobile times — mornings before work, weekends, evenings — their digital audience is often a mobile majority.

But those numbers hide the fact that traditional news outlets are being outcompeted for mobile users’ attention. Data from comScore shows that while consuming newspaper content takes up a mere 0.9 percent of total connected time on desktops and laptops, the total’s even worse on phones — just 0.2 percent.

Aren’t phones just web browsers with smaller screens? Not really. Smartphones are personal, social machines, optimized for communication and entertainment. Offered the choice, there are lots of people who’d rather spend time with Flappy Bird than The Fresno Bee. The tap-and-scroll interface works beautifully with social networks like Facebook and Twitter — less so with old-fashioned news presentation. And an interface built around apps and icons can make it a challenge for any single news source to earn a prominent spot on someone’s home screen.

The other big challenge is — surprise, surprise — money. Online advertising has long been dominated by a few big players, but their market power is even stronger on mobile. Just two companies — Google and Facebook — will earn 68.5 percent of all the mobile advertising revenue worldwide in 2014. They can do so because they have the best data about individual users: Google knows what you’re searching for, Facebook knows who and what you like. That advantage is almost impossible for a small news outlet to beat. The Newspaper Association of America estimates that mobile ads contributed less than 1 percent of all newspaper revenuein 2013.

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What Facebook’s targeting changes mean for brands

Digiday

Facebook, a company not necessarily known for transparency regarding data privacy issues, announced on Thursday it was giving users more insight to and control over how their personal information is used by advertisers. But also included in that announcement were details of how Facebook was increasing interest-based targeting capabilities.

That is, Facebook simultaneously made its ad targeting capabilities more robust, yet easier for users to opt-out of.

Agency executives welcomed the move for being both pro-consumer and as way for brands to waste less time and money advertising to consumers whose interests were incorrectly marked.

“If Facebook can educate consumers more about advertising, consumers are going to be in a far better position to reward good advertising and object to bad advertising,” David Berkowitz, CMO of digital agency MRY, said.

Chris Bowler, head of social media at digital agency Razorfish, echoed that sentiment.

“If you don’t want to hear about my brand, I have a bigger issue than advertising, and an ad on Facebook won’t overcome that,” he said. “Perhaps some users will use these ad preferences and I won’t reach them and maybe that’s a good thing.”

Every ad in a user’s news feed will now come adorned with a drop down menu allowing users to give feedback — such as liking the advertiser’s Facebook page in order to receive more messages from them, or opting out of receiving ads from that company entirely.

The drop down menu will also feature an “About this Ad” tab marked with the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) blue AdChoices icon. The tab leads users to a separate page which explains to them why they received that particular ad, and to opt out of the targeting practices used to serve it to them.

The “Why am I seeing this?” option will send users to a page showing them the interest the advertiser used to serve them that ad. If a user selects the “Why am I seeing this?” option on a World Cup-related ad from Nike, for instance, she might see that Nike served her that ad because she had expressed an interest in soccer. From that page she can customize which interests she’d like to be used for ad targeting purposes.

Opting out of soccer would not make her completely ineligible for Nike’s World Cup ad, however. If Nike decided to target a broad demographic that included her, she could see that same ad again, albeit based on different ad targeting criteria.

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Do brands think you’re dumber than a fifth grader?

Digiday

If we are to ascribe to the adage that millennials are a new breed of consumers who can identify when brands are talking down to them, then brands’ Facebook strategies are a resounding failure.

Brands treat Facebook users like a classroom of grade schoolers, according to a study from marketing analytics company Track Maven released on Wednesday. Approximately two-thirds (67.3 percent) of brands’ Facebook posts were written at a fifth grade reading level, the report showed. The average post was written at fourth grade reading level, and the most common reading level was first grade, which accounted for 17.5 percent of posts.

That’s all the more troubling considering Facebook requires that users be at least 13 years old, or in seventh or eighth grade.

The study used the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests that are used to measure the comprehension level of a given piece of prose. “Moby Dick,” it should be noted, is written at a tenth grade level.

The other startling revelation was how easily manipulated consumers were by a simple punctuation change. Posts that ended with an exclamation point saw nearly three times the engagement as those that end in periods, the report found. Question marks, meanwhile, resulted in just a 23 percent increase in engagement versus other posts.

Washington D.C.-based Track Maven analyzed 5,804 Facebook pages (each with at least 1,000 likes) and more than 1.5 million posts for the study.

Apart from painting a grim picture about the state of the written word on Facebook, the study actually revealed some interesting and helpful tidbits regarding brands on Facebook.

Posts on weekends are more effective in terms of engagement
While most brands do a majority of their posting on weekdays, it turns out there’s more value in posting on weekends.

“There’s a huge increase in engagement in content posted on weekends and after hours,” said Track Maven CEO Allen Gannett. “We have this predisposition as marketers to publish at the office. We hit the big red button, so to speak, and wait to see what happens. That’s sort of hurting us.”

A little more than 16 percent of all brand Facebook posts are published each weekday, with nine percent of posts published on Saturday and less than nine percent published on Sunday. But weekend posts see a greater number of interactions per post. On weekdays, interactions per post is between 2.19 and 2.27. That figure increases to just less than 2.5 on Saturday and reaches 2.72 on Sunday, however.

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European online ad market hits new high

Warc

The European online advertising market grew almost 12% in 2013 to reach a new record of €27.3bn according to latest figures from IAB Europe, with the fastest growth coming in the emerging markets of Russia and Turkey.

Announcing the results of the IAB Europe AdEx Benchmark study, the trade body highlighted several other firsts, including online video breaking the €1bn barrier and mobile display taking a double-digit share of total display advertising.

Mobile continued to show an extraordinary growth rate, up 128.5% on 2012 to account for 11.5% of the display market. Online video was also growing significantly, up 45.4% to €1.19bn.

“These results confirm the increasing value contributed by digital advertising to Europe’s economy,” said Townsend Feehan, CEO of IAB Europe. “Technology innovation is driving growth and it’s important that we continue to foster our European digital businesses to enable a strong European presence on the world stage.”

Growth in the three online advertising formats covered – display, search and classifieds/directories – had been “underpinned by shifting uses in devices and changing consumption patterns”, the study said.

The Display Ad market had experienced the highest growth, rising 14.9% to €9.2bn. Search, the largest format, had increased at 13% and was worth €13.4bn billion, while Classifieds/Directories market was up just 3.6% to €4.6bn.

The UK was the leading market, worth €7.4bn, outstripping the next two – Germany (€4.6bn) and France (€3.5bn).

Russia was the fastest growing territory and its 26.8% increase pushed it into fourth place in the European rankings with a market value of €1.8bn, just ahead of Italy (€1.7bn). The Netherlands (€1.3bn), Sweden (€0.9bn), Spain (€0.9bn), Norway (€0.7bn) and Denmark (€0.6bn) made up the rest of the top ten.

Daniel Knapp, Director of Advertising Research at IHS Technology and author of the research, noted that mobile advertising had come a long way. “Advancements in advertising targeting technology, standardisation of formats and improvements in measurement have allowed important progress in bridging the consumption/ad spend divide in mobile,” he said.

“It is now imperative that market participants further evolve their data strategies and connect advertising experiences across different devices from mobile to desktop for sustainable market growth,” he added.

Pinterest Opens Up Data Firehose for Marketers

The Wall Street Journal

Following in the footsteps of social platforms such as Twitter and FacebookFB +1.03%, Pinterest will now allow marketers to ingest data from its service to help them better understand and interpret users’ activity on the site.

The company will give a handful of third-party marketing technology providers access to information on how its users behave and interact with content across its service. At launch, the technology providers include Salesforce, Hootsuite, Spredfast, Percolate, Piqora, Curalate, and Tailwind.

Pinterest hopes access to this data will help marketers figure out which of their activities on its service generate the most engagement, and which actions they may prompt users to take “downstream.”

“Many businesses use Pinterest to learn about their customers. You might want to learn which of your products are popular, what types of images work best or which Pins are driving the most engagement and sales,” the company said in a statement.

Pinterest wants to prove to marketers they will benefit from being on its platform so they’re more likely to pay for its ad products as and when they become available. It’s already testing a paid ad product it calls “Promoted Pins” with a handful of advertisers, including home décor site Wayfair, hotel chain Four Seasons and UnileverULVR.LN -0.30%’s TRESemmé and Hellmann’s brands, WSJ reported.

The data will also help marketers better use Pinterest to generate free or “earned” exposure by posting content that resonates well with users. It might also help Pinterest avoid hosting brand content that’s of little interest to its user base.

Pinterest is granting access to its data through a new “Business Insights” API, or “application programming interface.” Ad executives predict the company will eventually open up another API that will allow third-party technology providers to place ads on its service on behalf of marketers. Facebook and Twitter currently offer similar functionality.

At launch, Pinterest partners with access to the business insights API are not being charged for it, Pinterest said.

“Native” Ad Labelling is a Work in Progress

The Wall Street Journal

“Native” advertising, or advertising content designed to blend in with editorial content, is all the rage. But publishers and marketers are still figuring out how to label it clearly without repelling consumers.

In the latest sign of the debate, BuzzFeed is preparing to overhaul the way it discloses sponsored content to its users. Until now it has typically referred to paid posts as being “presented by” a sponsor when they appear as links on its homepage, and the paid posts themselves have carried the name of the advertiser above a “BuzzFeed partner” label.

By the end of this week, the company says it plans to replace those phrases with “promoted by” and “brand publisher” instead. It’s also removing the yellow shading that appears around sponsor posts on its homepage, which was initially modeled after the way ads were presented on Google’s search results pages, and making its “promoted by” label yellow instead.

“It’s early days for social advertising, but as a technology-driven media company, we are always testing and iterating our ad product to create the best experience for our readers and best product for our clients,” said Chris Johanesen, BuzzFeed’s vice president of product.

BuzzFeed’s changes may seem like small ones, but they reflect the fact that marketers, publishers, “content marketing” companies, and indeed regulators are still figuring out how best to balance the interests of advertisers and consumers when it comes to labelling native ad placements.

Just last week, content recommendation service Taboola, which provides some paid links to content, was called out by the National Advertising Division for its labelling practices. The NAD, a marketing industry self-regulatory body administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, recommended Taboola make its disclosure larger and more clear in order to comply with guidance previously issued by the Federal Trade Commission.

Taboola said it welcomes the NAD’s opinion, and was “more than happy to make the changes” sought. But the firm argued other companies do less to flag paid placements to consumers.

“My hope is that other companies that compete with us will make their [paid links] clearer, because some companies do nothing,” said Adam Singolda, Taboola CEO.

Mr. Singolda pointed to Taboola competitor Outbrain, which doesn’t always disclose that some of the links it places on publishers’ sites are paid unless users click an Outbrain logo that appears alongside them. According to Outbrain, it’s up to its publisher clients to decide whether to disclose sponsored links or not.

“We strongly believe that the fundamental currency of our business is user trust, and therefore we think explicit labeling of the paid links is the best route to go. That is what we advise publishers do as best practice, but each publisher can choose how to label things on their pages at their own discretion,” said Outbrain’s vice president of marketing, Lisa LaCour.

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